A key element in overall wellness that often gets overlooked is oral health. Your mouth serves as the most important gateway for both health and disease in the body, and dental diseases have been linked to heart disease, diabetes, pregnancy complications, Alzheimer’s disease and more than five types of cancer. In his book, The Mouth-Body Connection, Dr. Curatola also describes the mouth as a mirror of conditions in the body that also manifest in the mouth, including gut problems, vitamin deficiencies, autoimmune problems and cancers like leukemia and lymphoma. The good news is, with proper oral care and regular screening, these issues can be diagnosed and addressed. “Over the past 40 years,” he says, “I have seen the elimination of toxicity and the control of inflammation in the mouth as vital in helping patients achieve systemic wellness.” Most people are unaware that the greatest causes of inflammation and toxicity to the body may be found in the mouth. Here, according to Dr. Curatola, are the top 10 sources:
1. PERIODONTAL DISEASE/GUM DISEASE: Recognized as one of the leading perpetrators of chronic low-grade inflammation in the body, gum disease remains an epidemic health care problem, affecting more than 80 percent of the American population. Extensive clinical research has linked gum disease to a long list of systemic diseases. There are now many new nonsurgical treatments for gum disease, such as laser periodontal therapy, which can help disinfect and regenerate healthy gum tissue.
2. JAW CAVITATIONS/JAW OSTEONECROSIS: These hidden areas of necrotic bone are commonly found in the areas of extracted wisdom teeth via 3D cone beam radiographic examination. Jaw cavitations have been found to be a source of chronic inflammation and chronic infection. Microbial cultures of these areas have shown that multiple pathogens harbor in these bony defects, including many coinfections from Lyme disease. Proper surgical training is essential in the treatment of jaw cavitations, as well as the use of biologic materials to enable these areas of necrotic bone to regenerate and heal.
3. AMALGAM (MERCURY) FILLINGS: Amalgam (mercury) fillings are silver-colored fillings that contain approximately 50 percent mercury, a heavy metal, which has been shown to off-gas throughout its duration in the mouth. Chronic exposure to mercury is a source of neurotoxicity linked to dysregulation and disease and the symptoms of mercury toxicity are exactly the same as those of Alzheimer’s disease. Dr. Curatola recommends that patients seek dentists who are trained in a safe mercury removal protocol that protects both the patients and dental staff, as the highest levels of mercury exposure have been demonstrated from their removal. Many new advanced ceramic restorative materials, which have superior physical properties, can be used to restore teeth.
4. NON-PRECIOUS METALS IN PORCELAIN-FUSED-TO-METAL (PFM) CROWNS & METAL APPLIANCES: Metal crowns that are coated in porcelain may contain nickel, cadmium and even lead, depending on the alloy used in the metallic base. Other metal appliances such as retainers, partial dentures with metal bases and fixed metal orthodontic retainers are made with multiple alloys such as chromium cobalt which have been found to react with saliva, a mild electrolyte, and can be a source of heavy metal toxicity. Healthier alternatives are the newer all-ceramic (zirconia) crowns and bridges.
5. TITANIUM METAL IMPLANTS: New research has shown these metal implants to be inflammatory to the human body. In addition to causing peri-implantitis in gum tissue, studies have shown most titanium implants are a source of endotoxin production, bacteria and bacterial byproducts. The latest research showed titanium particles from implants can be deposited throughout the body, including the kidneys, liver and lungs. A better biologic alternative is zirconia (ceramic) implants. They take longer to integrate and are more difficult to restore, but do not demonstrate the effects of titanium metal.
6. ROOT CANALS: A highly controversial dental treatment, root canals have been shown to be a source of endotoxin production in multiple clinical studies. Endotoxins are linked to systemic illness and the production of surrounding jaw cavitations. Clinical studies have also demonstrated that many root canal teeth trigger an overactive immune response in the body, causing negative health impacts. Existing root canals in teeth should be monitored for signs of cavitations and failure.
7. BPA-CONTAINING COMPOSITE FILLINGS: These traditional tooth-colored composite resins contain a BPA-containing chemical compound known as bisphenol A-glycidyl methacrylate (Bis-GMA resin). BPAs are powerful endocrine disruptors and have been linked to thyroid, breast, cervical and prostate cancers. A study in children who had BPA-containing composite sealants demonstrated a strong causal link to hyperactivity disorders in children. Recently, BPA-free composite restorative materials have been introduced to dentists.
8. OBSTRUCTIVE SLEEP APNEA/AIRWAY DISEASE: With over 1 billion people on the planet suffering from obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), airway disease often results from improper palate and jaw development, as well as tongue-tie (a restriction on proper tongue movement and posture). The lack of proper breathing, especially during sleep, is linked to a multitude of systemic diseases including stroke, heart attack, hypertension, diabetes and dementia.
Airway disease can now be corrected nonsurgically with the use of orthopedic appliances by a trained dental airway specialist, which can improve airway space and proper tongue position. Dr. Curatola recommends that everyone have a home sleep study to screen for this, followed by a 3D CBCT scan for a proper diagnosis.
9. TMJ DYSFUNCTION & OCCLUSAL DISEASE (JAW & BITE PROBLEMS): The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is the most stimulated joint in the human body, but can be a source of debilitating inflammatory disease when misaligned from dental malocclusion. Common symptoms include pain in front of the ear, headaches, neck aches and pain when biting or chewing. While there may be multiple causes of TMJ, the most common cause is dental malocclusion (bad bite) that can be corrected with proper restorative dentistry including orthodontic treatment.
10. HARMFUL ORAL CARE PRODUCTS: Most oral care products have their origins as flavored detergents over 100 years ago, with sodium fluoride (fluorine) added 75 years ago, and antimicrobial ingredients added 50 years ago. Most toothpaste formulas contain a host of other harmful ingredients including artificial sweeteners, dyes and preservatives linked to numerous systemic illnesses. Even so-called “natural toothpastes” contain harmful essential oils and other natural ingredients that can be highly destructive to the delicate oral ecology known as the oral microbiome. These detergents, oils and chemicals can be toxic. In 1998 the FDA mandated a poison warning on toothpaste containing fluoride, as ingesting fluoride toothpaste can be fatal to children. This prompted Dr. Curatola to develop Revitin toothpaste (revitin.com), the first prebiotic oral care toothpaste designed to promote a healthy balance of your oral microbiome, the beneficial oral ecology that is essential to oral health. Containing vitamins, minerals and prebiotics in a gentle, natural base, Revitin is safe for children and adults to swallow. rejuvdentist.com; 212.355.4777